Guwahati:Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia Saturday assured the tea planters in Assam that he will take up the issue of declaring tea as India’s national drink with the union ministry of commerce and industry.
Ahluwalia gave the assurance while attending the 75th anniversary celebration of the Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), the first tea producers’ association formed by Indian tea planters during the pre-independence period.
“I have seen the proposal presented to the government of India for declaring tea as the country’s national drink. I’ll definitely take up the matter with union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma,” Ahluwalia said while speaking at the celebrations, held in Upper Assam’s Jorhat town.
The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission also asked the ATPA to incorporate in the proposal the fact that tea is a commodity in India dating back to the pre-independence period of the country and that there is a sentiment and history attached with tea.
Ahluwalia also referred to Maniram Dewan, the first Assamese tea planter, who is also associated with the country’s freedom struggle and said that inclusion of these histories in the proposal for declaring tea as the country’s national drink will make the case stronger.
Talking to IANS, Bidyananda Barkakoty, an executive member of the ATPA and chairman of the North East Tea Association (NETA) said the suggestions of Ahluwalia will be incorporated in the proposal to declare tea as India’s National Drink and will be re-submitted soon.
The ATPA also appealed to the Planning Commission deputy chairman to grant a comprehensive package on irrigation for Assam’s tea industry due to changing climate conditions.
“As we are entering into the 12th five-year plan period, the Assam tea industry urgently needs a comprehensive policy on irrigation. It is not only the total rainfall in a year that matters to us but also the distribution of rainfall throughout the year that matters more,” said Barkakoty adding that a technical study on the feasibility of drip irrigation in tea bushes is the need of the hour in this part of the country.
“There is an urgent need to invest in HRD for the tea industry. There is no institute in Assam for the development of human resource in the tea Industry. As a result, skill developments at all levels is lagging behind, thereby adversely affecting production, productivity and livelihood enhancement. A government-funded HRD institute for the tea industry at Dibrugarh or Jorhat is a priority,” he said.